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The Monument

The Importance and Significance of Baltimore’s Washington Monument

The Washington Monument

The official rededication and reopening of the Washington Monument will happen, on Saturday, July 4, 2015, 200 years after it’s cornerstone was laid.

Baltimore’s Washington Monument, the centerpiece of a National Historic Landmark District, was constructed 200 years ago when Baltimoreans envisioned and commenced one of the most beautiful urban spaces in America, Mount Vernon Place. The Monument and the four surrounding squares of Mount Vernon Place have been enjoyed by generations of Baltimoreans, travelers from around the world, and major historical figures including Abraham Lincoln, King Edward VIII and Peter Tchaikovsky for their beauty and significance on the national stage of history.

John Eager Howard, owner of the large “Belvidere Estate”, donated the land for the monument, a square 200 feet wide. The construction was funded by a public lottery. Robert Mills designed the monument and its ornamental fence. He later designed the better-known Washington Monument in Washington D.C.

The cornerstone was laid on July 4th, 1815, shortly after the end of the War of 1812. Baltimoreans were particularly proud to be erecting this monument to Washington in light of their recent role in securing American liberty during the Battle of Baltimore, a turning point in the War of 1812.

Baltimoreans were also proud that the Monument was built of local white marble, from quarries in Baltimore County, just north of the City. In 1829, the Monument was completed when the statue of Washington, sculpted by Italian artist Henrico Causici, was raised to the top. The statue of George Washington depicts him submitting his resignation as Commander-In-Chief of the Continental Army in Annapolis in 1783, an act symbolic of his belief in the new American form of democratic government and the world’s most famous peaceful transfer of power.

John Eager Howard’s heirs, working with architect Robert Mills, laid out the surrounding four park squares in 1831. A significant redesign was accomplished by Frederick Law Olmstead, Sr. and the City of Baltimore beginning in 1876. This design remained in place until 1917 when America entered World War I. In 1917, as a gesture of support for the French, ground was broken for a statue of the Marquis de Lafayette, who aided the colonial army in the Revolutionary War. To create a setting for this new statue, the park squares underwent a major redesign by the prestigious firm of Carrerre and Hastings, the architects of the New York Public Library, from 1917-1924. Their design remains intact today. President Calvin Coolidge, members of the French diplomatic mission in Washington, and a crowd of thousands were present for the dedication of the Lafayette statue in 1924.